Carriages for the new Hamilton-Auckland start-up rail service are already being stripped for refurbishment and other work to keep the project on track is also underway, Waikato regional councillors have heard.
This has included the appointment of a programme manager by the Waikato Regional Council to achieve some of the conditions imposed by the NZ Transport Agency Board when it approved funding last December.
Amongst the work required is an overall programme management plan looking specifically at cost, risk and quality assurance.
Providing political oversight of the project is a governance working group, which will include regional councillors Hugh Vercoe and Russ Rimmington.
The working group will meet every two months and comprise representatives of project partners Waikato Regional Council, Hamilton City Council, Waikato District Council and KiwiRail, plus the Ministry of Transport, NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport.
During Thursday’s meeting the council heard that it should know by mid-March whether the project will receive Transport Agency funding assistance of either 51 or 75.5 per cent for the maintenance of the carriages once the service begins in March 2020.
The council based its 10 year budget, approved in 2018 following public consultation, on a funding assistance rate of 75.5 per cent for the ongoing maintenance.
A decision is expected to be made by the Transport Agency Board when it next meets on Monday 18 March, the council heard.
Chair Alan Livingston said following Thursday’s meeting that the council had made it clear to central government ratepayers would not cover the cost of any funding shortfall.
“When we voted to support the project last year, councillors said it was based on the 75 per cent funding threshold being met by the Transport Agency.
“The good news is that the government has clearly signalled support for this project, which we know will make a difference to the people in this region,” Cr Livingston said.
Cr Vercoe added: “Significant money is being invested in this service by the Transport Agency and some of that has in fact been spent already on the purchase of the carriages.
“But there are conditions the Transport Agency Board has had to impose and which must be met at each stage of the project to safeguard themselves before releasing more money,” Cr Vercoe said.
These conditions were being worked through by the project partners, he said.
The total cost of the project over the first six years is $78.2 million, with the NZ Transport Agency Board agreeing last December to fund $68.4 million. Of this, about $49 million is being used for the purchase and modification of rolling stock for the service.
As part of the project, a maintenance facility will be reinstated at Te Rapa, a new modern rail station constructed near The Base and the existing Huntly station upgraded.
The service will operate two weekday morning trains from Hamilton to Papakura, where passengers will connect with Auckland’s existing metro services, and two return services in the late afternoon/evening. A Saturday service will also operate in each direction.